If you have served in ministry for very long, the chances are likely that, somewhere along the way, you have felt helpless. Maybe it was a person you were ministering to who seemed to never have enough of your time or that nothing you did or said ever seemed to help them. Maybe it was frustration with another staff member or a ministry leader that just seemed to always cause problems or make matters worse. Maybe a new ministry just wouldn’t take off. Or even worse, you were slandered and hurt deeply by it. No matter what the root cause of the issue, at some point many of us have felt like moving forward in ministry seemed impossible.
First, let me just say, that if you’ve been there or are there today, you are not alone. I don’t know anyone who has survived in ministry for many years without feeling this way at some point. Unfortunately, I do know people who have felt this way and responded by running from their problems and running away from the ministry. The bottom line is that ministry is difficult. Ministry is messy. There will be conflict. There will be trials. But, I can’t think of anything in life that’s worth the struggle more than a calling to make Jesus known in every pocket of the world.
Here are three things I’ve found essential when ministry feels impossible.
Remember Your Calling
There is no way around the facts that God has wired everyone uniquely, that He doesn’t spell out every detail for our lives in the clouds, and that there are some He has set apart specifically to lead in ministry. God doesn’t take you through the process of discerning a call to ministry just so you’ll begin in ministry and then walk away to leave you on your own for the remainder of your journey. No! God equips and sustains those He calls. In times of struggle, when ministry feels impossible, remember your calling and cling to God’s promises to finish what He has started in you.
If you study the life and ministry of Christ, it’s impossible to think that He had it easy. From the onset of His ministry, there was conflict. He had internal conflict with temptation and relational conflict with some of His closest friends. Christ was even slandered and wrongly accused by those who didn’t even know Him. All of this was only a precursor to the greatest suffering He would endure, the suffering of the cross as a gracious means of paying for our sin.
When you are in the throes of ministry, and it feels impossible, it can be easy to forget that Christ suffered far worse. But, He did. Remember Christ’s suffering for your sake and the sake of the one or ones who may have led you to feel the way you do. Additionally, remember that everything you need for life and godly living comes from Him, and cling to the hope of Christ.
We can’t unsee things or forget things that have marked us deeply in ministry. I can remember early days in ministry that were the hardest things I’ve ever walked through at the time. But, we also can’t live in the past. Whether it be success or failure, the past is the past, and we can’t bring it back. So, my encouragement to those who are struggling with the feeling that ministry is impossible is to look to the future. As we look to what God is doing and will do, we find a great deal of reason for confidence. Though times may be hard, God hasn’t suddenly become unfaithful. James 1 reminds us that God does not change. His faithfulness has no end. Hold tightly to the confidence that the Lord is working for His glory and your good—and be confident.
Every morning at six o’clock, a reminder goes off on my phone. It’s a quote from Paul David Tripp’s book Dangerous Calling. “Today, in life and ministry, you will face trouble of some kind. Today, you will run somewhere for refuge. May God be your refuge, and as you run to Him, may you remember that He has promised you that there will be a day when your trouble is no more.” This has helped me fight through these moments of seemingly impossible emotions and circumstances on several occasions during my ministry.
Ministry is tough. And, at times, the last thing some of us want to do is keep going. You can’t run away just because it’s hard. Remember your calling to ministry, remember the work and the promises of Christ, have confidence as you step into each new day of ministry, and never forget that the aim is worth the pain.
Steven Ackley, his wife Emily, and their four kids live out their love for anything sports and Cookout milkshakes in Murfreesboro, TN where Steven serves as the NextGen and College Pastor at LifePoint Church. Steven holds a D.Min. and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can connect with him on Twitter.